photo credit: Stan Lee
LA has truly fantastic Chinese food. The only issue is that the vast majority of it exists in the San Gabriel Valley - an area that, for most people, is over an hour’s drive away. Plus, it’s 7:30pm on a Tuesday, and you just cried in the bathroom because your boss yelled at you for letting the office ficus die again, and you need reliable Chinese food immediately. A 60-minute drive East on the 10 simply isn’t in the cards. But Mao’s is.
The food at this tiny Venice spot is “country-style,” which means the menu has things you’ll probably recognize as well as plenty of things you might not. Our suggestion? Focus on the latter. Their mapo tofu (basically a big stew) is the best thing on the menu and the Chinese coconut curry is rich and sweet and everything you want after a long day of being an adult. There’s also the Qingjiao Rousi (shredded pork and mushrooms in a dark house sauce) and the camp-fry, which is basically Chinese cabbage and a whole bunch of other vegetables mixed in with whatever protein you choose (choose pork). All of these are worth ordering and a major step up from the kung pao shrimp we know you’re heavily considering.
Located right off the Venice boardwalk, Mao’s space is low-key, but fun. You could just as easily bring a midweek Tinder date that won’t go anywhere as you could a big group dinner that gets a little rowdy after a day at the beach. Oh, and it’s BYOB. Prices are reasonable, their lunch special might be the best in town ($8.50 for any entree and a salad and egg roll), and they deliver till 10:30pm during the week.
To be clear, Mao’s is not the best Chinese food you’ll ever have in your life. You don’t need to drive across the city for it, nor do you have to take your cousin from Minnesota for essential LA dining when she’s in town visiting. But if you live West of the 405 and dream of a place where you can get solid, affordable Chinese food any day of the week, it’s time to put Mao’s permanently into your rotation. The new office ficus thanks you in advance.
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Not sure why you wouldn’t ever order potstickers.
Skip this. It’s basically orange chicken, and you can get that anywhere. Venture into the unknown at Mao’s.
Now we’re gettin to the good stuff. Smoked tofu and mushrooms glazed in their slightly spicy dark house sauce. It’s unique, and will make you want your mom.
This is the best thing on the menu. It’s a big pot of spicy stew and it’s fantastic. Major points awarded for making a dish with mass amounts of tofu in it and also encouraging to add beef on top.
Order this and you’ll be rewarded with marinated shredded pork, tofu, and peppers all stewed together in this stir-fry from the gods.
It might not have the same punch as its Thai brethren, but once you dive in, this baby turns out to be exceptionally solid.
Dan Dan Mien
Not the best dan dan noodles in the world, and certainly not the worst. Order these at the restaurant though, they don’t travel well for delivery.